Sunday, July 24, 2011

Notes from December 2007

I'm cleaning my office and in the file holder next to my desk, I got rid of folders for Christmas 2009, a prospective client that got bought out by another company, a project that I finished too long ago to remember. Then I got to a folder of a company I never worked for, though I accepted a project from them. Inside were two sheets of paper, one full page of my notes from a conversation on December 11, 2007. The other has no date. It has half a page of less detailed information about the project and a list:

BCBS form mail
get sympathy cards—Amy & her mom, Heather & Pat
TY notes—Henry's hand, list from mom
finish bears
finish elephant
make heart—Henry

During those last couple of weeks Henry was in the hospital, I was thinking about starting to work again, dealing with insurance, sending thoughts to others who had lost a loved one, thanking people for the many kindnesses they had done for us. I was making ornaments for Christmas gifts. The bears were for my nieces and nephews to go with the book Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, which I had already bought for them. I think the elephant was for my aunt (her version of my cardinal), the heart was for Henry. I think the penguin was for my friend Tricia's daughter, who was a penguin for Halloween. (That came to me just as I was writing that I had no idea who the penguin was for.)

I was not thinking that my son was going to die.

The list doesn't say how worried I was to bring him home, how terrified I was that he would get sick and we would end up in the hospital again, how anxious and exhausted I was.

On the other side of that paper there is a list of things for parents on one of the other floors—massage and reiki twice a month, yoga once a month, snacks, acupuncture, pizza, community art, coffee and Sunday papers . . . the bottom of the sheet is cut off. I remember how hard it was to start to find out about these things. You needed to be in the hospital a long time. You needed to hang out in the family center or the parent/patient resource rooms and talk about needing to get out or have a break or de-stress. There were times I felt like there was a secret language I didn't know that I needed to know in order to get help. Then coordinator of the parent coffee hours on our floors started offering me a slot for reiki whenever it was available. One day, I didn't make it to coffee hour and she left a cookie at the nurse's desk outside of Henry's room for me. It made me cry, that simple kindness. All of this rushed back with this not quite full page of events and times.

I  opened this folder expecting to find useless info about a project that never happened, pages I could easily recycle, but instead I found notes that showed where I was weeks, days, before Henry died, busy, hopeful, looking forward to Christmas, deciding I really should try to get back to work, and completely oblivious to where I would find myself on December 17.

I'll tuck these pages back into my file holder, and next time I clean out my office I'll look at them again. Maybe then I'll be ready to toss them or maybe I'll hold on to them, useless and mundane as they are. Sometimes a to do list is hope incarnate.


  1. Those innocent little notes can stir up so much. I have them too. x

  2. Amazing how much can be tied to these notes. "Sometimes a to do list is hope incarnate." Oh, yes. Love to you.